By Velena Jones

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A free hotel stay for testing positive? It’s part of a drastic push to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The state initiative is aimed at farmworkers who many times may think that taking a sick day could cost them their jobs.

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“They are feeding us, they are providing food in our grocery store to our tables. We need them to be healthy,” said La Familia Counseling Center Executive Director Rachel Rios.

La Familia is partnering with Sacramento County in a statewide program, Housing For The Harvest, providing free hotel stays for farmworkers and food processing workers who have been exposed to or have COVID-19.

“Many times they are living in a household with multiple people are living in a household so they may not be able to self-isolate,” she explained.

The two-week quarantine provides free meals, telehealth services and transportation.

“Our concern is that we want them to stay home, we want them to be safe, we want to be able to support them so they can stay home and still pay their rent and take care of their family,” she said.

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The center gives those who participate in the program a bag filled with essentials, including a tablet to stay in touch with family. The services also provide mental health check-ins for not only the person who has infected with COVID but also their whole family.

“It (COVID) can bring them to this depressive state and their energy is lower. Having someone to remind them ‘practice these skills, there is somebody here to listen to you, I will check-in on you every day,’ that lifts their spirit,” said Mental Health Coordinator, Adriana Martinez.

California based non-profit Center for Farmworker Families estimates there are up to 800,000 farmworkers in the state. In Sacramento County only 10 people have utilized the resources, one actually staying in a hotel.

“We thought we would not be able to handle all of the people and that is not happening statewide,” explained Rios. “There is a lot of fear. A lot of our farmworkers, they may live in mixed immigration families, they may be concerned that this is a public charge issue and it could jeopardize their status.”

Sacramento is one of 13 counties in the state using this program. Funding for the services runs out at the end of 2020. La Familia has asked the county to extend resources and is waiting to see if that happens. The center plans to do even more outreach to encourage people to participate.

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Velena Jones